The Ruffin Series of the Society for Business Ethics

Volume 4, 2004

Business, Science, and Ethics

Mollie Painter-Morland
Pages 177-188

A Response to William C. Frederick
The Possibility of Moral Responsibility Within Corporations as Complex Systems

This paper addresses the inherent danger of relativism in any naturalistic theory about moral decision-making and action. The implications of Frederick’s naturalistic view of corporations can easily lead one to believe that it has become impossible for the evolutionary firm (EF) to act with moral responsibility. However, if Frederick’s naturalistic account is located within the context of his and other writers’ insights about complexity science, it may become possible to maintain a sense of creative, pragmatic moral decision-making in the face of supposedly deterministic forces. Business’s most creative response to moral dilemmas takes place “at the edge of chaos,” where a temporary order comes into being via self-organization. This process of self-organization is influenced by a great number of variables. Some of these variables are the x-factor configurations of individuals and groups, which cannot necessarily determine, but can influence the moral-decision-making process. Moral responsibility becomes part of a complex process through which creative, value-driven solutions emerge.